New Book Praises Distinctness of Cuban Alicia Alonso in Giselle

Essayists and dance critics recall on Saturday the debut of Alicia Alonso in Giselle in Cuba with the presentation of a book that compiles testimonies of the artist''s distinctive mark on that vital character.

The 26th International Ballet Festival of Havana Alicia Alonso celebrated that event on Friday with a performance of the masterpiece of Romantic ballet, performed by the first dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba Viengsay Valdes, Sadaise Arencibia, Grettel Morejon, Dani Hernandez, Rafael Quenedit, and Raul Abreu.

As part of the collateral activities of the event, on Saturday the Cuban poet, essayist, and critic Roberto Mendez will present the book Alicia Alonso o la eternidad de Giselle (Alicia Alonso or the eternity of Giselle), by Mayda Bustamante, published by Editorial Cumbres, of Madrid, Spain.

The compendium, profusely illustrated, is the most complete anthology of critical texts on the subject and the authors, experts from different countries, reflect the contributions of Alonso to the leading role of Giselle.

The activity will take place at 11:00, local time, in the popular Calle de Madera in the Plaza de Armas, in Old Havana, within the historic center of this capital.

Alonso debuted in Giselle on November 2, 1943, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, along with the prestigious English dancer Anton Dolin as Albrecht and the cast of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), company of which she was one of its stars.

Bustamante's book also allows us to appreciate how the dancer's contributions extend beyond her extraordinary interpretation, since the choreographic version she created of that work still captivates the specialists in multiple scenarios and, in 1966, she received a prize at a festival in Paris, France.

The first dancers of the ABT, Hee Seo and Cory Stearns, will be the stars of the Giselle show on Saturday, scheduled to take place at 17:00, local time, in the Avellaneda hall of the National Theater of Cuba, together with the company of the Caribbean country.

  • Published in Culture

The other Alicia Created by “The Friend” Nelson Domínguez

Alicia in Black and White, in colors, sitting and dancing, flying, in life, many times Alicia and only one woman reinvented,seen from the admiration and friendship, drawn from portraits in body and soul, all presented by Nelson Domínguez to his friend Alicia.

The National Prize for Plastic Arts invites to contemplate, on his own words to CubaSí, much more than portraits of the Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso:

“I think that in this exhibition I created another Alicia, people can imagine that she is Alicia, I sometimes painted it and thought: Is this Alicia? The concern was never to paint a portrait, the intention was to make a work born on teh spur of the moment, of the will, of the inspiration, that is what prevailed in this exposition.”

"My Friend Alicia" is the name of this permanent exhibition at Events Room of the Great Theater of Havana as part of the celebration for the 26th International Ballet Festival.

During the opening, Miguel Cabrera, historian of the National Ballet of Cuba, commented the traditional connection between plastic arts and dance in Cuba, marked by names like Carlos Henríquez, Servando Cabrera or René Portocarrero and he highlighted that this collection shows a very particular vision:

"… it’s the communication of two very special beings, among which, and I am witness to this, have been a current of mutual sympathy and admiration. Nelson gives us something that has not happened and I think that any Plastic Arts historian could prove me wrong, I don't believe that no Cuban plastic arts artist has made such a complete work about the image, the being, the work and humanism of a figure of our culture… nothing escaped him and there is the human being, the teacher, the choreographer…

In exclusive talk with Cubasí, Nelson explained that he worked fom pictures of different moments on the life of the creator of the Cuban school of ballet to develop 42 portraits with diverse techniques and formats, at the same time he remembered: "Over the last years I have had three models who have inspired me greatly, they are Robaina, Fidel, and Alicia Alonso and I have been working with them… "

It’s a loving, honest work, loaded with spirituality, without abandoning for a second her style, Nelsón delivers images more or less realistic, more or less colorful, but always Alicia, multiple, admirable, transcendent:

"She baptize me with the nickname "the friend" and whenever there was a ballet event she said: “did you already invited the friend?” Always in all shows I was near her, because she had sent for me; I cooked for her many times, I have a girl who studied ballet and let me tell you it’s very sad, because if my father had had the opportunity to bring Picasso home and never brought him, I would condemn him for eternity, my daughter cannot condemn me, because I brought home the Picasso of ballet dance."

  • Published in Specials

Viengsay Valdes Highlights Historic Legacy of National Ballet of Cuba

Havana, Oct 27 (Prensa Latina) The prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC), Viengsay Valdes said on Saturday that preserving and defending the historic legacy of her company, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary on October 28, is important.

The anniversary will be the main reason for celebration at the 26th Alicia Alonso International Ballet Festival in Havana, which will take place from October 28 to November 6, with participation of artists from more than a dozen countries.

It is important right now to remember and preserve what we have and to defend it, so that the BNC continues to be a great internationally recognized company, Valdes noted during a rehearsal of the opening gala.

With the help of relatives, artists and intellectuals of the time, Alicia, Fernando and Alberto Alonso founded the company in Havana on October 28, 1948. The dedication and love for what they did in the beginning is admirable, and the BNC in the early days was composed of several dancers, not only from Cuban, but also from the United States and other nations, the current prima ballerina pointed out.

In 1940, Alicia and Fernando Alonso joined the Ballet Theater (now the American Ballet Theater), in the United States, and they took advantage of a recess of that company to invite most of their colleagues to Cuba in order to establish a classical ballet company.

The three Alonsos and other founders devoted themselves, with a sense of commitment, to the task that had been theirs: establishing a new company and then a new school, becoming the youngest internationally recognized institution, Valdes said.

After the company was founded, several artists needed at the time to resume their jobs or other contracts abroad to survive and the Alonsos needed to found an academy to raise some money and mainly to train their own dancers.

I feel proud to be part of the BNC and, above all, it is a privilege to have had great teachers, said Valdes, who was a student of Alicia and Fernando Alonso, the so-called four jewels of National Ballet of Cuba (Josefina Mendez, Loipa Araujo, Aurora Bosch and Mirta Pla) and many other teachers.

  • Published in Culture

A BALLET, A NATION: The National Ballet was Created by the Cuban People

A conversation with doctor Miguel Cabrera, historian of the National Ballet of Cuba, about his close relationship with a group where he has worked more than half of his life…

If there’s anyone in doubt, or needs any data on the ballet in Cuba, there is a person who can be of great help: historian Miguel Cabrera. Famous for being an open and accessible man, prove of this is the affability he showed when he receives us and answers our questions.

What has meant for you to be the historian of the National Ballet of Cuba for so long?

First, I have to tell you that it has been a great honor, because I studied history, and I had my first contact with the National Ballet of Cuba precisely in the year of its twentieth anniversary, in year 1968. Since then I started a systematic work with the company. On year 1969 we created the radio show Ballet and in 1970, the magazine Cuba in Ballet. It was a superb job, because everything was starting fresh. It was like changing into a living thing, in something useful everything that had been kept in the files of Alicia Alonso, a patrimony zealously kept by a woman with huge influence in this history, named Angela Grau.

"I worked doing the records, ordering. First I began logically with Alicia's work. But it was a multiple task. I didn't just do that in the company. I had to do a very diverse work, but basically were the things related to the history.

I faced a beautiful work, as are all the foundation works, I had to organize and establish the repertoire of the company, Alicia's career everything, and the career of the main figures of the company: like Fernando, Alberto, also the four jewels of Cuban ballet. But they also gave me the task of working in the magazine, in the radio show, of delivering lectures, of giving courses at the National School of Art, in the University… All in all to do what I consider is the most beautiful part in my life: this work of making ballet more popular that has led me from Maisí to Mantua.

 

"But when you ask me the question, I remember a recent interview to doctor Olga Portuondo, when she said that her appointing as historian had not been official, there is no ordinance that declared her historian of Santiago de Cuba, but it was rather by her own right. Something similar happened to me. There was a person working in Propaganda, that person was in charge of writing the shows; one day she stepped into my office and told me: “I have a surprise for you, and put me on a show, and in the show I was presented as: Miguel Cabrera, historian. Hence, my name appeared for the first time, as historian. I asked: What about this? And she replied: Alicia said to put it this way.

“The appointing as historian could not be more honorable if the founder of the company, the key figure has decided so. I have always been presented like that: our historian. My most important status. I have received several distinctions in Cuba and abroad, but for me that detail of seeing my name in the show in the early 70’s (and still on air) it’s something that honors me".

The history of the National Ballet of Cuba is written black on white especially thanks to your work. What has it implied for you that responsibility?

When you are set to the task of pioneering, it’s something very big. I have always believed something I repeat to myself many times, I said it when my book National Ballet of Cuba was premiered. Half century of glory, in 1998: I belong to a very prestigious company, next to people who have been supreme, and I have always thought that the shows are made, the glory nights pass by, the applauses fade into silence, flowers wither, but that fact must stay. That has been my modest work. With great passion, with almost a sickening passion for justness, to write down history as it was, without alterations.

"When I published a more recent book, named Ballet in Cuba. Historical notes, a person who right now occupies an important position in this country, phoned me, and said: that book is one of the prettiest gifts I have ever had, only you could have written it, because it has everything with everyone.  

That has always been my concern: everything with everyone.

"That makes a foundation, which is a starting point.

"I inherited something from a beloved old friend whose name is almost forgotten he is José Antonio González. He left me the foundations. I took advantage of them. But when I look at the Ballet of Cuba, I see its dancers, I see Alicia's career, that of Alberto, Fernando, and the four jewels, the three graces, the choreographers, when I see I was able to capture all that in books, I think that is a source.

"Immodesty is really bad, like fake modesty. I know I have left very valuable books, but not because I wrote them, but for the greatness it carries what I have gathered. My task has been to be next to that. What does it make me a unique historian? Well, many historians are very good, they are devoted to study the sugar industry, but have never walked into a sugar cane factory. And I have written those books from inside, I am a member of this company. I have seen those choreographers grow, those dancers. I saw that generation that began in 1968, in the summer. I gave my first lecture on September 25th, 1968 here. So since that generation, I have seen them all enter. I saw the jewels become acclaimed figures. I have seen entire generations of dancers grow. I have been the chronicler."

Which has been the contribution of the three founders of this company to the Cuban culture?

I am a very lucky person. I graduated from history, but when I came here my true university began, from Alicia's hand, Fernando and Alberto. Do you imagine the honor that such personalities believe in you? That they turn everything you have inside? Imagine that those people give you the technical, aesthetic and ethical reasons that have ballet in Cuba…

"Alicia, Fernando and Alberto are the foundations of ballet in Cuba. I struggle a lot, as outcome of my investigations, to bring together their roles in the history. It is not true (only someone who doesn’t know history would say) that Alicia is just the great dancer that Fernando is only the great teacher, that Alberto is only the great choreographer… that is a limitation on the greatness of them three.

“Can somebody say that Alberto Alonso, the director of the Ballet School of Pro Art, since 1941 until 1961 who has been teacher in the musical theater who trained Josefina Méndez and Loipa Araújo, was not also a great teacher? Fernando was also a dancer, and a person who passed on his experiences. He knew a lot about kinesiology and muscles, but he knew it mainly because he had felt it in his flesh and blood.

"And Alicia? What can we say about Alicia? Of course, the classroom was filled mainly by Fernando, but one is not only a teacher when giving a chronology or a class, but when one sets the example. And Alicia did that and even more, she did it when she made corrections to the other dancers, when she offered lessons on style…

"I believe that the most beautiful thing about this I heard it from Fernando Alonso. One of those days, when listening to those polemics of people who love gossip (I have always been in the party of those who unite), Fernando said: do you know who made the National Ballet of Cuba and the Cuban School of Ballet? They were created by the Cuban people".

Cuban Company Acosta Dance Turns Summer into Art

The company Acosta Dance opens today at the Havana''s Grand Theater Alicia Alonso its Summer season, featuring works by choreographers from the United Kingdom, Spain and Cuba.

The hall Garcia Lorca will host the ensemble founded and directed by the prestigious dancer Carlos Acosta, whose biography inspired a film about to premiere at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain.

According to a press release from the company, this program includes the works End of Time by the English choreographer Ben Stevenson and Impronta by the Spanish artist Maria Rovira.

By decision of Acosta Dance, the piece De punta a cabo (From Tip to Out), original version by Alexis Fernandez (Maca) will be reissued but, on this occasion, it will feature video images made by Cuban artist X Alfonso.

The audience attending these functions will be able to enjoy the world premiere of Satori, choreography by the young dancer Raul Reinoso, who was inspired by notions of Zen Buddhism to create a show about the search for spiritual enlightenment.

Satori has an original score composed by the Cuban musician Jose Gavilondo, costumes and decorations by the Curaçao designer Angelo Alberto and lights by the Italian artist Fabiana Piccioli.

Acosta Dance aims to offer integrative shows from the contemporary and the neoclassical, without discarding other expressions, times and styles of dance art.

The company intends to elaborate proposals in full accordance with the most current notions developed in the world, not only in terms of the body movement but also in terms of everything related to the scene.

The ensemble is defined as a space for renewal, research and experimentation for creators from all over the world, choreographers, musicians, designers, plastic and audiovisual artists.

  • Published in Culture

Successful Performance of Litz Alfonso Dance Cuba Ballet in Mexico

The National Auditorium in this capital was full of dance, music, luxury voices and good scenery, with the show ÂíCuba Vibra!, by the Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba ballet.

It was a rainy night but it was worth getting wet to see the professionalism of the Cuban company, which has taken the island's culture to different countries.

The program started with the piece 'De tierra y Aire', to later make a tour of the Cuban history and culture, but also with a lot of universality.

The Spanish dance was represented with flamenco, but all eyes was put on the Cuban dance, with Afro in particular, and a generous audience with such good art was excited.

The colophon was the Lizt Alfonso choreography entitled 'Se armo la rumba', where the dance company, star dancers, a group of musicians and important singers, among them pianist Pedro Sureda for Cuban chords, and guitarist Carlos Ernesto Varona for Iberian notes, participated.

Buleria, seguidilla, cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, conga, bolero, feeling, were rhythms and dance steps that make the heart vibrate in the National Auditorium, located at the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City.

  • Published in Culture

Viengsay Valdes Represents Cuba at Tokyo Ballet Festival

Cuban National Ballet Prima Ballerina Viengsay Valdes considered today an honor to represent her country at the 15th Tokyo Ballet Festival, which brings together world dance figures.

This festival began on July 27th and brings together artists from the best companies of the world. The aim is to provide a general description of the ballet scene today.

The artistic level here is very high and my performances have been exciting, I danced Muñecos, a Cuban piece by choreographer Alberto Mendez, said Valdes after one of her performances.

I did not do it a long time ago and returning to this piece gave some fresh air, I also had the pleasure and honor to work the details with Mendez in Havana, and later transmit them here to my partner, Brazilian Daniel Camargo, leading dancer for the Danish National Ballet, she said.

According to Valdes, if the artists manage to personalized well the characters of the tin soldier and the typical Cuban doll that are found thanks to moonlight magic, they reach the audiences' hearts; and she believes she has achieved it in Tokyo, the same city where the piece was premiered 40 years ago.

Muñecos won in 1978 the Choreography Prize during the 2nd International Ballet Competition in Tokyo, and the relationship between the Cuban and universal dance, along with a dramatic end for the appearance of the sun and the return of the characters to their initial state, still attracts audiences from several countries.

After the closing gala on August 18th, Valdes hopes to return to Cuba to prepare herself to perform during the 26th International Ballet Festival in Havana, to be held from October 28th to November 6th.

  • Published in Culture

Cuba National Ballet Takes Up Another Literary Classic: Cinderella

The National Ballet of Cuba, under the direction of the legendary artist Alicia Alonso, announced today that it will perform in this capital one of the most famous stories by Frenchman Charles Perrault: Cinderella.

The season will take place at the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso, on July 19th, 20th, 21st  and 22nd, choreographed by Cuban Pedro Consuegra.

The creator was inspired by the story of Perrault of the same name to compose a dance version of Cinderella in two acts and four scenes, with music by Johann Strauss (son) and designs by Armin Heinemann.

The work was premiered in 1996 in this capital with an excellent reception from the public and critics, and as the main course of the next season the company announces the debuts in the main roles of young dancers, who will share the scene with the experienced ones.

Grettel Morejón, Rafael Quenedit and Bárbara Fabelo make up the cast of the first show; Ginett Moncho, Adrián Sánchez and Chavela Riera will assume the second; while Chanell Cabrera and Yankiel Vázquez will star in the third; and Viengsay Valdés, Dani Hernández and Claudia García will close the sets.

Next to Greta, Gustavo and the Fairy Rava appears Leontine, the stepmother, whose roll will be alternated between Ernesto Díaz and Yansiel Pujada.

In the opinion of the North American journalist Lewis Segal, of Los Angeles Time, The Cinderella of the National Ballet of Cuba becomes a version in which the character and the spirit remain subordinated to the classic narration.

Meanwhile, the Spanish critic Julio Bravo, of the newspaper ABC, highlighted the funny epilogue introduced by Consuegra in the style of the great classical ballets and a risky, brilliant and elaborate final pas de deux.

  • Published in Culture
Subscribe to this RSS feed